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tv   [untitled]    February 2, 2012 9:00am-9:30am EST

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captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2008 but we are linked in a different way. daniel and i grew up in butler,
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pennsylvania. daniel and yourself have a great relationship. yeah. and i know the reason you're here is not because of any monetary gain that general motors could have possibly offered you because, really, your decision to go with gm was made with your heart and not with your head because you could have stayed in the private sector and been a lot more rewarding and you wouldn't, in fact, be here today going through this. one of the slides, this is 2009 e-mail. shows treasury officials help gm on how to structure press release, asking that reference to government ownership of gm be removed and taking it out of the lead. then we go to another slide and showing you an e-mail from may of 2009, again, and it talks
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about a member of the automotive task force telling general motors to coordinate with the uaw, united auto workers, about the pending termination of pension plans of which gm is responsible. at a minimum, this could get messy and the uaw should probably be brought into the loop. now, having served on a lot of dealer councils and being part of ad groups where we try to get the message out about how great our cars were and how good our deals were and how you could trust the general motors dealer and the general motors product. walk me through some of that stuff because it is, again, perception is reality. this hearing today is not about the chevy volt. this hearing is about nhtsa. what did they know, when did they know it, when did they let you know it? as i believe we've always had a great partnership, my dad started in '53 after being a parts picker in the warehouse. my relationship with general motors has never been cloudy. it's always been clear and transparent. i know which side of the table i sit. i am not a manufacturer or
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distributor, i actually sell these cars. but when you look at these things. you say, well, my gosh, if it really isn't government run, if the government really is at arm's length and away from this, this sharing this information, how are we going to market these different messages, how does that happen if it's not that way? how does nhtsa sit there and say, no, no, no, no, we did it the same way we always do it. as a matter of fact, they didn't do it the same way they always do it. again, halo product. i understand halo. nothing to do with angels but it does have to do with what we're doing when we put the spotlight on our cars. we can compete with anybody in the world with any product on any level. again, our success is driven by producing cars in mass quantities, people want to buy in mass quantities. it truly is market driven. when i look at those two e-mails and i'm trying to think, if they're really not involved, and
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they really don't have an influence, why are these e-mails going back and forth and why are they advising general motors on how they should message these things? walk me through it easy. in mind of what you're doing, i know you don't have to be here. danny speaks highly of you all the time. if you could help me to understand that. help the american people to understand that, i would appreciate it. >> thank you for your question. i want to make something perfectly clear. i joined the board in july of '09. so these e-mails preceded any knowledge or specific knowledge i would have of the situation. i would allow that when i was in the deal merger and acquisition business at the carlisle group, there's a lot of conversation back and forth when you're about to put money into an investment. so possibly that's the context of that.
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but that's just pure conjecture on my behalf. i don't know. i will say this, and i mean this as sincerely as i can. when i was first queried on the possibility of joining the board i was clear i did not want to be associated with a venture, a company, as great as general motors is, as important as i think it is to this country's manufacturing and industrial base, if there was going to be government involvement. was the company going to be allowed to function as a business. and in my tenure, both on the board for the first year, from '09 to september of '10 and then the subsequent year and a half, i will testify in front of the good lord that this administration has never had a presence in the boardroom or any input on the operations of the business. you asked a more specific question about nhtsa and its involvement with us, what did they know and when did they know
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it. i think we commented on that. but if there's any question in anybody's mind if they gave us a free ride, if the last two months of negative publicity and the fact that i'm sitting here explaining this, thanks, but i'll go it alone in the future. >> thank you. yield back, mr. chairman. >> thank you, gentlemen. order, mr. -- gentleman from virginia is recognized. yeah. >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. ackerson, welcome. >> thank you. >> the chairman of the committee indicated that the nhtsa study was done roughly sort of halfway
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through the number of sales that currently have occurred that is to say i think you said there were about 8,000 volts on the road. this happened around sale 4,000. is that about right? >> i'm sure it was quite a few less than that because we sold, i think, 1,500 plus in january alone, so i think it's been gaining momentum. i would have said closer to 2,000 or 3,000, but i don't have a specific number before me. >> now, of the 8,000 families or consumers who drive volts, how many have blown up or had fires? >> none. >> i'm sorry? >> none. >> none? so the only example of any safety concern with respect to that occurred in a laboratory run by nhtsa? >> no, to be precise. the first one occurred in the field in a contractor -- i guess a contractor at nhtsa -- it was a test facility in wisconsin.
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and we hit it with a severe side impact. it sat alongside the road with three other vehicles. three weeks later a fire occurred and it took us a while not only to understand which vehicle started the fire, under what conditions because it happened over a weekend, then we had to find the root cause. we had to dissemble the battery. you saw pictures of it. it was not easy to ascertain precisely what happened. subsequently tests were conducted to try to simulate that again, because could you have a bad test. >> sure. >> we ran tests and crashed it again. we could not replicate a fire with the same conditions. we didn't depower, we didn't do anything. nhtsa could not do it. >> i was listening to the chairman of the full committee, mr. issa, questioning you, and in the process of asking a question he asserted some facts.
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i want to make sure that you either do or do not concur with his assertions that special -- in light of this test, even though it hasn't been able to be replicated, we need to give special instructions for people so that it doesn't explode and blow up, to, you know, if you're taken by a tow truck or put in even for that matter in a garage because there's reason to be concerned. would you comment on that? >> i think the kernel of the issue is would we do in a post-crash, multi-day, multi-week environment if we did not depower the battery? i think the lesson learned is after a week to three weeks, and we could not simulate in the real world the condition that we expect -- that we experienced e. we had to pull the battery out, pierce it, and essentially this will be a slight exaggeration, drench the battery in coolant, and then a week later it occurred.
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you had -- it wasn't an explosion. that's been a little bit hyperbole, i think. there was a fire. it smoldered for a while. it sparked. it takes a while, and then it does -- it would burn. when that occurred, even in a simulated laboratory extreme, non-real world environment, the nhtsa initiated a formal investigation and we went to general quarters. >> and you as ceo of gm are so concerned about this you went out and bought one yourself. >> i bought one of the cars that was returned, yes, sir. >> thank you. last night the president alluded to lithium battery research and development, advanced lithium battery, and if i recall, at the time we adopted the recovery act here in congress, before we made the investment in advanced lithium battery research the
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u.s. manufacturing share worldwide was something like 5%. and the projectionists like my next year, it's going to be 40%. is that correct? is that your understanding? >> i'm not familiar with those numbers. >> but in a brief period of time manufacturing here in the united states of advanced lithium batteries has significantly expanded in the last two or three years, is that correct? >> that's correct. >> briefly, gm, after -- before and after the bailout, could you just refresh my memory in terms of your world market share? >> our world market share today, at the end of 2011, stands at about a little -- right around 12%, roughly one out of every eight vehicles in the world is manufactured by gm or one of the affiliates. at the end of 2011, it was the
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first time since '77 that we've gained market share two consecutive years in a row. >> wow. and you have returned to number one in the world? >> yes, sir. >> thank you, chair. >> i thank the gentleman. real quickly before yielding to miss melanie. just so i'm clear. the protocols prior to this investigation and this incident and commonly understood, common sense, common knowledge, were to drain the gas tank and to disconnect the smaller battery, 12 volt battery that the cars had. >> in a, quote, unquote, conventional car, yes. >> okay. so for an electric vehicle the protocols were the same, disconnect the 12 volt, drain the gas tank, but do nothing with the largest ion battery. >> it would automatically disconnect from the circuitry. >> the protocols for the electric vehicle were exactly the same for nonelectric vehicle, disconnect both batteries, disconnect the battery operation, drain the gas
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tank. i mean, that was common knowledge. >> yes, but there's a -- i want to make sure i'm imperfectly clear. >> i think i'm going to ask the next question. >> depower. >> okay. that was my next question. so the protocols today are disconnect the battery, which entails both batteries. >> right. >> drain the gas tank and, in your words, depower the larger battery, which means drain the coolant? >> no. >> drain the -- tell me, layman. >> discharge the battery. >> what does that mean? >> think of connecting a giant light bulb to that battery and just run it down. >> okay. okay. got it. ms. maloney. >> sorry for the inarticulation. >> thank you very much. and welcome to the committee. >> thank you. >> i would find it very difficult to imagine an america that did not make its own cars.
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so i am pleased that the president was able to report in his state of the union the progress that the car industry has done -- achieved in america. i would like to quote one line and put his whole statement in the record with unanimous consent. he said, today general motors is back on top as world's number one automaker. and a report i read last week said that there are over 700,000 jobs created by the auto industry now in america. and i would like to put that report in the record. >> without objection. >> okay. i think that it's clear that this innovative car that gm has made has been caught up in the middle of politics. and some members appear more interested in making wild allegations for political
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purposes than in recognizing a promising technological breakthrough. and i would like to ask you, and give me a yes or no answer, is it true that the volt was first shown at a general motors electric vehicle concept at an international auto show in january of 2007, more than two years before the swearing in of president obama, and the company's filing for bankruptcy? >> yes, it was shown at the detroit auto show. >> okay. i'm just curious, how did you get here? did you fly, did you take a train, did you drive? how did you get to this hearing? >> i drove a volt. >> you drove a volt. okay. and can you tell us how the volt is selling and what is the customer feedback? >> well, it's rated -- from a customer satisfaction point of view it's rated as -- at the highest rate any car has ever gotten. 93% of the people highly approve of the car that own it. it's the highest recording ever. >> and will the technology
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developed for the volt be used in other vehicles? >> there are derivatives that come out of research and development and the practical application of the volt and other electric cars that will benefit other vehicles in our fleet, yes. >> and how many miles does the typical volt owner drive without having to fill up with gasoline? how long can you go? >> well, on one charge we say 35, sometimes it's more. it's actually quite interestingly temperature dependent. fits really cold or it's really hot you do see some diminution. let's say in a typical day that's temperate, about 35 to 40 miles. 80% of the american public drives less than 40 miles a day. this car was designed for that mass market. i drove a test vehicle before we launched for three months. i put 25 -- roughly 2,500 miles on it. i used two gallons of gas
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because our driving patterns were such that we didn't drive 50, 60 miles at one run. >> so often do you have to fill up with the volt, you know, if you can get such mileage off of it? >> again it depends on usage patterns. if you're driving 35, 40 miles a day, you may not have to fill up for months. >> wow. >> we have instances and testimonies on some of the blogs that people drive it 800, 900 miles. again, you're driving 100 miles a day you're going to see a transition. it's really important to understand, this car is always driven by an electric motor. the gas engine is relatively small. all it does -- there's no mechanical drag on the combustion engine. all it does is charge the battery. >> what are your future plans for the volt? >> well, i think this has been a good exercise for us because it's gotten everything out on the table and i think we've got a fair hearing. we're going start exporting it
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with the enhancements that we're implements now on -- not only to europe but to asia and china in particular. >> if everything you say, mr. akerson is true about the volt, that you can get such mileage that you can drive for months if you're not driving that long, that you cannot fill up but once every two months and you get such great mileage and safety and so forth, why aren't other manufacturers of cars copying the volt? why aren't they building their own version of the volt. >> there has been interest by some of our competitors to license the technology. >> and do you own the technology? is it american owned, this technology? >> yes, it is. >> is it patent? >> yes. >> so you can hold on to it? >> yes. for 17 years. >> we might be able to export something then. >> we are exporting. >> and you know, this fire scenario that we've been talking about. it seems to me that you have responded to it in a very unlike gm way, no offense. but not like a big corporation
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but responding very fast to provide a solution. and has this fire happened in any other real life accident or other accident? >> we have 25 million miles driven on the cars that are in the public domain. there's been no documented case of any fire of any nature on the volt. >> and i've heard that some of the consumer groups and watchdog groups have given you ratings. could you give us what those ratings are and the safety watch groups, can you elaborate on these standards, i guess, or qualification -- >> we're rated five star not only by nhtsa, but the international institute highway safety for occupant safety. so both five stars in the arena we want. the consumer reports says it's
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got the highest rating in customer satisfaction. highest they had ever seen. when we closed -- when we were first notified of a formal investigation we immediately offered loaner cars or the opportunity to sell a car back to the company. and at the same time, we embarked upon a very aggressive and active effort to come up with an enhancement to the protection of the battery which we done and that will be implemented over the next couple of weeks and months. >> i would like to commend you and your company for this innovative addition to the world. and congratulate you on moving in the right direction, to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. and eliminating harmful pollutants in the area. i'm proud of my vote in support of the bailout of the auto
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industry. it's an american success story. it's the american dream. and i'm very proud of you and your company. thank you for being here today. >> thank you. >> gentleman from -- >> would the chairman yield for just a moment? >> the ranking member is recognized. >> when i was in the lounge there i saw my friend mr. kelly put this slide referring to the e-mails between gm and the department of treasury, you know, concluding that u.s. government was somehow running gm. i just want my friend to know that, you know, on this side we really look at this very deeply and i wrote a letter dated june 29th, 2011, which i don't know if -- i'm guessing you may not have had a chance to see it because what this effectively did was to debunk any evidence of collusion in a june 29th, 2011, letter to the chairman, and i would specifically cite pages three and four and six and seven.
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you know this hasn't been -- when i wrote this letter, i haven't received any response that would indicate that there was a dispute as to what was said. so i just wanted to share that with my friend and with my chairman just so you know that there is -- that we looked at this and i think we effectively debunked it. >> without objection. >> i would ask unanimous consent. >> objection. the letter is entered into the record. i would point out, the e-mails are the e-mails. when you have people in the administration telling people at the company how they should structure a press release, how they should write things, i think that speaks for itself as well. >> if i may, to my friend, mr. chairman, it's a tautalogn, and it's true to say the e-mails are the e-mails.
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however, there is no evidence of collusion between gm and the department of treasury that would suggest that the government is running gm. you know, i would say given the philosophy of some of my friends on this side of the aisle and that gm has had such success recently to assert that the government was running gm would probably create a feel that the government is either more competent than you think it is or gm is less competent than you think it is. i think those two assertions would be interesting. >> to my good friend i would say that, even congress, every american is pleased by the success of general motors. but that doesn't dismiss the fact that even today half of the board are -- approximately half of the board were selected by the administration to sit on the board that the taxpayers invested $50 billion in this company and there are all kind of incentives, tax breaks, et cetera, for people to purchase
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this product. those are the facts. >> he is correct about that. >> but the e-mails were about the government. >> you talk about the totality of the situation. i just wanted to make sure we saw the full situation. >> my friend is correct in asserting how this thing was structured. i supported it. i know some of my friends were not. i just want to say if you look at the e-mails you were about the government's role in characterizing what the government was doing, i believe not trying to direct gm. so i just -- i want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to present that. thank you. >> sure. and while we're on this subject if i could enter into the record the committee on oversight government reform, preliminary report on the effects of the bailouts and the politics on this issue. without objection, so entered. and i think -- >> if i could. >> mr. kelly gets the last word.
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>> i don't mean to have the last word. but you know, we use the term the government's investment. we talk about this body made a decision. this is taxpayer money. we're not some benevolent monarchy that showers favors on people. we take it out of hardworking american taxpayer's pockets and then we decide who gets it. i'm appalled by this attitude down here that somehow we have the ability to pick and choose winners and losers, not with our own money but with taxpayer money and then we say, geez, you know what, we made a great decision for you, taxpayer. really, really? $50 billion. that's a "b." that's a lot of money in a time that throws around trillions that doesn't matter and it doesn't matter to them because it's not their money. i'm going to tell you, mr. kusinich, you and i agree on a lot of things and we're entitled to our own opinions but we're not entitled to our own facts. the truth of the matter is the government has been involved in this far deeper than they ever should have been to begin with. mr. akerson knows how to run gm. he has a history of running great companies.
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he does not need somebody who has never run a company to tell him how to spend the money and we're going to shower this on you. i want to tell you and you want to throw money, if you want to throw $7,500 in a tax incentive and in pennsylvania throw another $3,500 in a tax incentive and talk about rate of sale and day supply, when it's your money that's on the shelf and it's your product that has to turn because it's your dollars and you're damn careful about how you put that money. this is taxpayer money being used. i'm not going to yield because there is such a disconnect in this town with the way the real world works. general motors does not need the help of the taxpayers to subsidize their cars. do you want to move a market? throw $7500 on a cruise.
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not from general motors, from the taxpayers. want to see that needle jump? put thousand of people back to work? yeah, you can do it in a lot of different ways. but you know what? stop taking it out of my wallet. and i am deeply offended by the attitude down here that somehow this merry-go-round is going to continue to spin and there's no consequence. there are hell of a lot of important things that happen, unintended consequences by people who have never done it, don't have any skin in the game, and are spending taxpayer dollars. that is absolutely ridiculous. and that's something we've got to stop doing. this has nothing to do with mr. akerson or general motors but an administration that can't keep its fingers out of the pie. >> if i may in response -- >> gentleman, certainly. >> this hearing was about -- i thought about the safety of the volt. it may have other dimensions. i want to tell mr. kelly, who is my friend, i did not vote for the bailout of the banks because i didn't want the government to be involved in picking winners and losers. the american automotive industry was on the verge of collapse. i felt, given the privacy of that american automotive industry to our strategic industrial base, aerospace and shipping, that the prudent thing to do would be to make an attempt to rescue it, gm's management has helped to conclude it, but again, i don't see, and to my good friend, we
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have strong differences of opinion on this point, i understand, i respect that. i really do respect you. but i just think that -- that the evidence of conclusion that's being offered here hasn't been supported by the facts. i, again, i respect you greatly. thank you. >> with that, i want to thank mr. akerson. i know you're a busy man running a big company. we appreciate what you do and we appreciate you taking the time to be with us this morning. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> we will quickly move to our third witness. and if the staff can help us set that up because we have to get out of here in about 15 minutes. >> thank you. yesterday house and senate republicans spoke to were roers about proposed changes to the federal budget process. that's next. and federal reserve chairman ben bernanke will be on capitol hill this morning to talk about the u.s. economy. that gets under way in about 30
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minutes at 10:00 eastern. live coverage here on c-span3. republicans introduced bills to the house and senate revamping the budget process, the legislation would make it more difficult for congress to pass spending bills without first having passed the budget. some of the bills gop supporters spoke to were roers about the legislation. >> thank you all for coming. the american people are not happy with how congress and the administration manages their money. and i have concluded that they are basically right. first and foremost, we are borrowing 40 cents of every dollar we spend.


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